Red carpets and award ceremonies are a Hollywood staple, and a tradition for many of us entertainment fans. While we watch the broadcast of the awards to find out who won what, we mainly watch the red carpet arrivals to get a first-hand peek into who the stars are and what they are feeling on what could be a career-turning night for them. We are also used to hearing mainly the female stars being asked who and what they are wearing.
It seems like a harmless fashion-oriented question, but lately there has been growing unrest about subjecting female actresses to fashion questions, and only directing interesting career-related ones to the men. Back in February, The Representation Project team behind the awesome documentary ‘Miss Representation‘ which questions the effect the media has on young girls, decided to launch a hashtag campaign during the 2014 awards season to get the media hosts and presenters to ask female actresses more than just questions about their outfit.
We get it, they look fabulous and they are most likely wearing a designer that the majority of us regular folk at home will never have the pleasure of wearing. But they are on the red carpet and at the ceremony for a reason, they are nominated for an award for their hard work and talent. So doesn’t that fact alone warrant more interesting questions?
“Even at the Oscars, where we celebrate the highest artistic achievements in film, reporters often focus more on a woman’s appearance than what she has accomplished,” writes Imran Siddiquee. The campaign got an even bigger twitter presence during the Emmys in August when the #AskHerMore hashtag was used with gusto.
“Prodding female celebrities about their fashion choices, love lives and diets in lieu of asking more serious questions about their careers, inspirations and aspirations is nothing new. And that’s what #AskHerMore recognizes and wants to change,” reports the Huffington Post.
The female A-listers were asked dull questions like how long it took them to lose the baby weight (Kerry Washington), where their boyfriend was (Sofia Vergara), who they got ready with (Laverne Cox), and who they were texting (Natasha Lyonne). In contrast Matthew McConaughey was asked about his childhood role model, Aaron Paul chatted about his first job in Hollywood and Kevin Spacey talked about his fellow nominees in the Best Actor in a Drama Series category.
The Representation Project founder Jen Siebel Newsom wrote an article for The Daily Beast to explain in more depth why this campaign is important not only for the women on the red carpet to be acknowledged and respected for their craft just as much as their male counterparts, but also for all the young women watching to know that to become an actress isn’t just about what you look like.
“Despite being an awards ceremony dedicated to celebrating the highest artistic achievements of the television industry, the lasting image of Monday’s Emmys had very little to do with the best TV of the year. It was Sofia Vergara’s body spinning on a pedestal – the star of ABC’s ‘Modern Family’, and one of the most successful women of color in Hollywood, reduced to set decoration while the CEO of the Television Academy, Bruce Rosenblum, raved about his industry’s “diversity” and ability to give audiences ‘something compelling to watch’,” she writes.
“Though Vergara has defended the incident as a harmless joke, thousands on Twitter criticized the Emmys for perpetuating the sexual objectification of women and Rosenblum’s tone-deaf assertion of ‘diversity’ during a program that gave no awards to women of color.”
“When we don’t speak up, and when we as viewers tune in without complaint, we allow the media to normalize treating women as second-class citizens. This emphasis on female appearance, during a night that’s supposed to be about achievement, further separates women from men in the industry, devalues them as artists, and leads to powerful men like Rosenblum reducing Emmy-nominated actresses to sexual objects on stage without blinking an eye.”
One of the best examples where a TV station failed women and was called out on it was when Cate Blanchett was in the middle of an interview at the Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet with Giuliana Rancic from E! Entertainment, and just as the camera started panning down to her outfit, she bent down and awesomely interrupted her own response with: “Do you do that to the guys?” (watch from 30 seconds).
On the night of the Emmys, tweets came in like a flood suggesting alternative questions that networks such as E! and Entertainment Tonight should be doing, as well as tweets showing how ridiculous it is that this line of superficial questioning has become the norm. The reason this campaign is crucial and is clearly picking up steam as the year chugs along, is because it is time for a change.
We the people can have a much bigger impact on networks and trends than we think. If we don’t tune in, and if we don’t like the content, then we can vote with our viewing power and force the media to start being more conscientious about what they teach us to value.
A hashtag campaign doesn’t just go viral to go viral, but in the hope that society will shift in a more positive direction that will impact a great amount of people. Sure, we can change the entire world with 140 characters, but if we speak up, like Jen Siebel Newsom states above, then it will influence those around us, raise awareness and education, and perhaps our collective voices will become loud enough for decision-makers and producers to take notice.
Just like the rest of us would not want to continually be stuck in a superficial conversation at regular intervals, especially when it came to celebrating a major achievement in our lives, these actresses should also be treated with the dignity the men get, because it means generations of girls will grow up seeing women on TV be respected for their craft, not objectified for it.